The Price of Altruism
Academic and author Oren Harman reveals the extraordinary discoveries of George Price – the eccentric genius who strove to understand evolution’s greatest riddle: altruism.
Price developed a new interpretation of Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, the Price equation, which has now been accepted as the best interpretation of a formerly enigmatic result. He wrote what is still widely held to be the best mathematical, biological and evolutionary representation of altruism.
He also pioneered the application of game theory to evolutionary biology, in a co-authored 1973 paper with John Maynard Smith. Furthermore Price reasoned that in the same way as an organism may sacrifice itself and further its genes (altruism) an organism may sacrifice itself to eliminate others of the same species if it enabled closely related organisms to better propagate their related genes.
Unable to accept the selfish reasoning for kindness found in his own mathematical theory of altruism Price began showing an ever increasing amount (in both quality and quantity) of random kindness to complete strangers.
Price committed suicide, using a pair of nail scissors to cut his own carotid artery. Friends said he committed suicide because of despondency over his inability to continue helping the homeless.